Meet sophomore homecoming queen Alana Schwartz. She is 17 years old and a sophomore. She has Down syndrome, a mild case, which means that while she has a learning disability, she doesn’t have any of the heart problems associated with the condition.
One day Alana was sitting in front of sophomore Sam Bremmer on the bus. Alana was singing and having fun as usual.
“I wondered how she would react if she were homecoming queen,” Bremmer said.
This is why Bremmer decided to do something special for Alana.
Bremmer emailed student council adviser Al Snider in August to make sure Alana would be on the ballot when it came time to vote for homecoming court in the fall.
“She emailed me basically saying, ‘I know homecoming is usually a popularity contest, but I think it should be more than that,’” Snider said.
Once school started, Snider met with Bremmer and told her that Alana would have to receive votes in order to be on court, like any other student.
According to Snider, Bremmer said, “Well, what can I do to make that happen?”
Snider and Bremmer started brainstorming until Bremmer came up with the idea of making a Facebook page. Not long after its creation on Sept. 10, over 700 Facebook users were invited to the “Alana Schwartz For Homecoming Queen” Facebook page.
Diana Schwartz, Alana’s mother, first found out about the campaign when she saw the posts on Facebook.
“At first I thought, ‘No, it can’t be. Is this a joke or something?’ But then I kept reading and realized it was real. It brought tears to my eyes.”
A few weeks later, the balloting began.
Within the sophomore class, there were 12 groups of 20 ballots.
“Typically, a person gets three or four votes, within a group of 20,” Snider said. “Alana was getting 13, 14, 15 votes out of a group of 20.”
According to Snider, Alana received about 250 votes out of 300 sophomores.
When Diana heard about her daughter’s victory she was ecstatic.
“It’s very touching that the school, and the sophomore class especially, wanted to do this for Alana,” Diana said. “It just really touched our hearts.”
Alana remained unaware of Bremmer’s campaigning until the day court was announced.
“It was really hard to keep this from Alana,” Diana said with a laugh. “It was really hard to pretend that nothing had happened, but we did it somehow.”
On Friday Sept. 27, the administration, Alana’s mom and sister came with Snider to see Alana’s reaction when he told her that she had been voted homecoming queen of the sophomore class.
Snider explained to Alana what she would have to do the week of homecoming as queen, including walking at halftime of the football game and riding in a car in the parade.
“The whole time she was very receptive to it. She didn’t overreact,” Snider said.
“Until I walked away,” he added with a grin.
Once Alana turned around, she was so excited she jumped into her mom’s arms.
“It was a very special and touching moment,” Diana said.
Bremmer said she was “blown away” when Snider told her the news.
“I started crying when I heard, and then Mr. Snider pulled me out of class to tell me, and I started crying again,” Bremmer said. “I was just so excited. I couldn’t even think straight.”
At the homecoming football game, it was Bremmer who escorted Alana, sophomore homecoming queen.
“This has been a very happy, positive experience,” said Diana. “Because of her special needs, we didn’t think anything like this could have happened to Alana.”
This event has brought significant media attention to Dexter. In the week following Alana’s victory, the story was covered by publications such as The Dexter Leader and mlive.com.
According to Diana, this can be a learning opportunity for those who have made fun of kids with special needs in the past.
“This will teach young people that kids with special needs have feelings too, and they need to experience the good things in life,” Diana said. “These kids don’t get opportunities like this very often, and when they do, it’s a very special occasion.”